Fear: the Silent Dictator of America

Unless you’ve been living under a rock or in some cave in a remote village on some desolate corner of the world, you have seen a headline within this past week about political figures misusing their platform, police brutality, Black Lives Matter gone awry, or an ISIS-related bombing. In other words, our world is falling apart, and this country isn’t off the hook. All of these headlines have divided the U.S. into several pieces and we cannot collectively read from the same page. We watch the news and then jump on social media, sharing articles that claim that Leader A is trying to create a dictatorship in America, and that People Group B are trying to rape and pillage the innocent. We scream at oppression and unwarranted violence, and then insist that everyone involved in Career Path C is corrupt and ready to kill at any moment.

Blame is thrown around like a football. When stuff hits the fan, finding someone to blame brings momentary comfort. Because of this, when we hear a leader blame a group of people that we want to blame as well, we feel relieved. Our fears are then justified because someone with power is afraid of the same thing. And then we think to ourselves, “Well, great- as long as this person is in office, Group B can’t take over our country, and we’ll be safe and secure and free.” What we fail to realize, though, is that regardless of who we vote for, and regardless of who we choose to be for and against, we’ve already bowed down to something that has crippled us as a nation. We’ve bowed down to fear.

The reason that blame is so easy to shift and that political leaders are so easy to idolize is because we’re afraid. We see terror and violence on TV and we associate a small percentage of the world population with a much broader group of people. We see misled African-American teenagers and young adults assaulting taxi cab drivers and people on buses, falsely in the name of the Black Lives Matter movement, and we associate the criminals on TV with Jackie and Jordan walking to the corner store. Many women clutch their purses tighter, and men guard their children as any given group of African-American teens pass them by. And if a black man walks into a bank or a convenience store with a hood, or a hat, or even sunglasses- forget about it. And this fear isn’t new. This has been around since the formation of this great country of ours, but we have failed to talk about it effectively, and we have failed to listen.

We hear about mass murders and shootings at the hand of ISIS, and we see radicalized Muslims being plastered all over the news, and suddenly, we can’t look at our Muslim neighbors down the street the same way anymore. Even hearing a name that seems to be of Arabic origin gives us anxiety. In the same way African-Americans are avoided at public events, so are Muslims. If someone even looks Middle Eastern on the bus or the train, many people are quick to watch their every move just to be absolutely sure that they’re not going to blow the whole thing to pieces. Seeing the loud and outspoken few do so much damage in the world has prevented us from seeing the beauty that many American Muslims have to offer.

We are terrified of who our next president might be. We are so afraid of the impending oppression to come from any of the candidates that we scream in our loved one’s faces about how we have to choose blue over red, or vice versa. We stand behind a candidate, not necessarily because we agree with what they want to accomplish, but because they’re “the lesser of two evils” for whatever that actually means. We settle for the “lesser evil” because we are afraid. It has become common language to choose evil. In what world is it okay to actively choose evil? I’m not saying that any of the candidates are evil, and I’m certainly not saying which is better, but if we truly believe that the people attempting to lead our country are terrible people, then why are we willingly choosing them?

We choose out of fear. Fear is the reason that many black people cannot walk their kids to school without getting the cold shoulder from strangers. Fear is the reason that we accept language that demeans an entire group of people in the name of national security. Fear is the reason that we support leaders that we don’t even trust. Fear is the reason our world is falling apart.

This has been a very difficult post for me to write, because I, too, am afraid. I, like everyone else, am uncertain about the future of our nation. I, too, am concerned about the direction the world is heading in. I, too, wonder if the next big tragedy will hit close to home. However, we cannot let fear have the last laugh. We cannot let fear be the reason that we accept hatred and distrust into our daily lives. I cannot recall a time in our country’s history where fear has led to anything productive. Look at the Red Scare. Look at the Jim Crow laws. Look at the Japanese internment camps. We need to live in love in our every day lives. We need to make decisions about our country out of love. There is no fear in love. In fact, I read somewhere that perfect love actually removes fear.

I’m sorry if I sound like a hippie, and I apologize if you think that some issues are more complicated than simply loving people. I respectfully disagree. When we act out of love, we begin to see people as people. When we act out of love, we learn to show compassion and we uncover empathy. We learn to feel for the outcasts and minority groups as well as the politicians that grace our TV sets. Yes, it is hard, and yes it is scary, but I believe that love has the power to cover offenses and to drown all of our fears, even if our love is not reciprocated by anyone else. It’s not about what you can get out of the world. Sometimes, it’s about what you can contribute. Contribute kindness. Contribute compassion. Contribute care. But above all else, contribute love.

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1 John 4:18

 

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